Gary John Previts, President THE ACADEMY OF ACCOUNTING HISTORIANS
HAZY HISTORY: FACT AND FOLKLORE IN ACCOUNTING
We have, as accounting historians, all been subjected to some form of intellectual affrontery by non-historians who question the value of our pursuits. This is a rather uncomfortable feeling, and places us on the defensive—when indeed non-historians are the ones who may well have tarnished history's name. It is they, being so desperate for clever historical material about accounting, that have promoted and perpetuated apocryphal items in order to pro-vide historical background in support of contemporary illustrations. The time has clearly arrived for us to take the offensive in citing these loose items and at the same time conduct research to develop valid replacements.
For example, the excellent bit of research by our colleague Mr. Albert Newgarden entitled "Goodbye, Mr. Hubbard" (The Arthur Young Journal, Spring/Summer 1969) destroys the mythical descrip-tion of the "typical auditor" attributed to Elbert Hubbard. Haven't we all heard it? ". . .[A] man past middle life, tall, spare . . . with eyes like a codfish ... as damnably composed as a concrete post. . . ." But as Newgarden shows, it is fiction—or folklore, for Hubbard did not write or say it at all. Indeed the quote refers to "The Buyer" (Volume III, Selected Writings of Elbert Hubbard, 1922).
Yet modern comments on the image of accountants ("Young Man Be An Accountant," Esquire, Sept. 1961, p. 71) and writings dating back more than a quarter century (Theodore Lang, N.A.C.A. Bulle-tin, Sec. 1, July 15, 1947, p. 1,377) relish the use of this fable.
Even Professor Horngren along with Professors Burns and Hendrickson have been "taken in" during the last decade using Hubbard's "quote." Horngren is victimized twice however, his most recent edition (Chapter 6, p. 174, item 14) as well as a previous edition (Chapter 9, p. 291, item 15) both carry on the tale. While Burns and Hendrickson include the story from Esquire in their 1967 edition of The Accounting Sampler, (p. 296) they make no reference to it in their 1972 revision. Of one point there should be no question,